pastorjohnb

Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!


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Good Gifts

Reading: James 1: 17-21

Verse 21: “Get rid of all the moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the Word planted in you”.

Our passage from James opens with a good reminder as we start our week. James reminds us that God gives us good and perfect gifts. The unchanging God who is from everlasting to everlasting has given us good gifts. When I think of the gifts that God has given us, I think of God himself. The greatest gifts that we have as human beings are God’s best attributes. “Created in His image” comes to mind. God loves us without fail, always forgives us, always reaches out to us, and always cares for us. These are the good gifts from above.

God uses the Word of truth, Jesus, to give us new birth. Through Jesus Christ we become new creations, born of the Spirit. It is through Jesus and His life that we truly see how to take these gifts of God – love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, compassion, empathy… – and to use them in our lives and in the lives of others. This is how we are the “first fruits” that James speaks of. We bear fruit both when we live out and when we share these good gifts with others. This is how we live out our faith.

In verse 19 we shift to some practical advise on how to best live in relationship with others. James tells us to listen, listen, listen. And, then, we are to listen some more. “Be quick to listen”. Why? So that we are slow to speak. Hear the other person. Really understand what they are saying and feeling. Being slow to speak begins with listening and then by not thinking of our reply or response until after the other is done speaking. When we practice these two ideas, it really is amazing how it affects James’ next piece of advice.

James advises us to also be slow to anger. When we have really listened to and understood the other, then anger is harder to muster up. When we do allow anger into our hearts, we are far from righteousness. To help with our anger management, James suggests that we first “get rid of all the moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent”. Thinking of myself, I easily think of ego, pride, the need to be in control, judging others as the filth and evil that must go. Perhaps you too struggle with these or maybe you have others. Whatever the case, may we also follow James advice in the second half of the verse too: “humbly accept the Word planted in you”. We do know how and why God wants us to live as first fruits of His grace, love, mercy, forgiveness… This is how we share the good news with others.

In humility, I bow and ask you, O Lord, to purge me of all evil and wickedness. Fill me with your good gifts and use me to share these with others. May I be a first fruit today, bringing you and your good gifts to all I meet today. Amen.

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Good Gifts

Reading: James 1: 17-21

Verse 21: “Get rid of all the moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the Word planted in you”.

Our passage from James opens with a good reminder as we start our week. James reminds us that God gives us good and perfect gifts. The unchanging God who is from everlasting to everlasting has given us good gifts. When I think of the gifts that God has given us, I think of God himself. The greatest gifts that we have as human beings are God’s best attributes. “Created in His image” comes to mind. God loves us without fail, always forgives us, always reaches out to us, and always cares for us. These are the good gifts from above.

God uses the Word of truth, Jesus, to give us new birth. Through Jesus Christ we become new creations, born of the Spirit. It is through Jesus and His life that we truly see how to take these gifts of God – love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, compassion, empathy… – and to use them in our lives and in the lives of others. This is how we are the “first fruits” that James speaks of. We bear fruit both when we live out and when we share these good gifts with others. This is how we live out our faith.

In verse 19 we shift to some practical advise on how to best live in relationship with others. James tells us to listen, listen, listen. And, then, we are to listen some more. “Be quick to listen”. Why? So that we are slow to speak. Hear the other person. Really understand what they are saying and feeling. Being slow to speak begins with listening and then by not thinking of our reply or response until after the other is done speaking. When we practice these two ideas, it really is amazing how it affects James’ next piece of advice.

James advises us to also be slow to anger. When we have really listened to and understood the other, then anger is harder to muster up. When we do allow anger into our hearts, we are far from righteousness. To help with our anger management, James suggests that we first “get rid of all the moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent”. Thinking of myself, I easily think of ego, pride, the need to be in control, judging others as the filth and evil that must go. Perhaps you too struggle with these or maybe you have others. Whatever the case, may we also follow James advice in the second half of the verse too: “humbly accept the Word planted in you”. We do know how and why God wants us to live as first fruits of His grace, love, mercy, forgiveness… This is how we share the good news with others.

In humility, I bow and ask you, O Lord, to purge me of all evil and wickedness. Fill me with your good gifts and use me to share these with others. May I be a first fruit today, bringing you and your good gifts to all I meet today. Amen.


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Gifts, Love, Strength

Reading: 1st Corinthians 1: 3-9

Verse Five: “For in Him you have been enriched in every way”.

Paul is writing to a church he loves.  He writes to them to strengthen and encourage them as they live amongst a society that loves power, position, and money.  This sounds like the setting for many of our churches today.  The church in Corinth is apparently being a little judgmental and is having some disagreements within.  The church is also failing to treat all of its members equally as the wealthier members are being given better treatment than the poorer members.  This also might be a thing or two that we struggle with in our churches today.

Into the current reality, Paul speaks some Gospel truths.  He begins by thanking God for the grace that they have been given.  It is a grace that has fallen on one and all.  Paul then goes on to write, “For in Him you have been enriched in every way”.  Here Paul is speaking of both the spiritual gifts that each member has been given as well as of the strength that they can find in Jesus Christ.  In reminding them of grace, Paul is reminding them that God gives grace to all people equally.  Just as God gives grace freely to all people, God also loves all people equally as His beloved children – not loving this special person more and “that” person less.  In reminding them that each has a spiritual gift, he is reminding them that all have value as each gift is needed for the building up of the body of Christ.  Paul also knows that at times the walk of faith will be hard.  So he also reminds them that God is faithful and will keep them to the end.

Just as this passage was a great reminder of the truths of God for the church in Corinth, so too is it a great reminder for us, the church today.  This passage calls us to use the gifts that we have been given, to love others just as Jesus loved all, to lean not into our own strength but to lean into God’s strength instead, and to rest upon the eternal faithfulness of God.  In and through all of these things may we find our path today, loving both God and neighbor, as we are each called to do.


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Talents

Reading: Matthew 25: 14-30

Verse 21: “Well done good and faithful servant… Come and share in your master’s happiness”.

In our passage today, the slaves see their master one of two ways.  Two see the master as trustworthy and to be worked for.  The third sees the master as harsh and greedy.  Two of the slaves take what the master has entrusted them with and put it to work, doubling what they had been given.  The third hides what he has been given, refusing to use it even a little by safely investing it with the bankers.

God gives each of us talents or gifts as well.  Each of us has gifts that can be used to build the kingdom of God here on earth.  What we do with what we have been given depends on how we see our master, God.  If we see God as a God who is harsh, as a God who punishes His children, then we are likely to risk little for God.  We will take what we have been given and guard it closely.  We do not want others to know the gift we have so we keep it hidden away.  But if we see God as loving and trustworthy, then we desire to take the talents or gifts we have been given and to invest them to help others to come to know God.  We use our talents to grow the kingdom of God.  One day we too will hear, “Well done good and faithful servant… Come and share in your master’s happiness”.

Our God is a loving, compassionate, grace-filled, forgiving God who calls us to be the same.  If we truly see God in this way, then we feel led to be this type of person to others.  We seek ways to help others know our loving, compassionate… God.  In doing so we use the talents and gifts that God has blessed us with so that all will come to know our God.  What gifts has God given you?  How are or can you use your talents and gifts for the building of the kingdom of God here on earth?


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Kingdom Builders

Reading: 1 Corinthians 2: 12-16

As followers of Jesus Christ, we receive the Spirit from God.  Through our baptism we become part of the family of God.  When we accept Christ as the Lord of our life, we are blessed with the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  It is the Spirit that helps us to discern and understand the things of God.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit we come to know the gifts and talents that God has blessed us with and how to use them for the glory of God.

Paul writes to the church in Corinth to encourage them and to spur them on to action.  Paul reminds them that when they allow the Holy Spirit to lead and guide them that they will speak not with human words and wisdom but instead they will speak words taught by the Spirit.  With the power of the Holy Spirit they will speak to others “expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words”.  God will fill them with “the mind of Christ” so that they are able to share Jesus’ light and love with others.

Both remain true today.  God has blessed every member of every church with gifts to be used for the kingdom.  As members of the body of Christ, we are called to help each other discover our gifts and talents.  We do this through fellowship, by getting to know one another, and by inviting one another to come along as we go forth to serve Christ in the world.  We also do this through prayer and study, allowing the Spirit time and space to reveal who God created us to be.  Once we know our gifts and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the use of our gifts, then through the power of God we will be able to do great things for the kingdom of God.

May we each play our role well – both by seeking the Holy Spirit and by faithfully serving God with the gifts we have been blessed with.  May we each be kingdom builders today.


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Called

1 Corinthians 1: 1-9

There is a definite focus on “call” in today’s passage.  Paul opens with his call “to be an apostle of Jesus Christ”.  He then reminds the church in Corinth of their “call to be holy”, right along with all others who “call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”.  This culture of call is one that is present throughout the Bible and is alive and well today.

Before Paul there is a long list of those called in the Bible.  Noah was called to build an arc.  Jonah was called to save Nineveh.  Moses was called to lead his people.  Job was called to endure much while remaining faithful.  Joshua was called to lead into the Promised Land.  Rahab was called to risk her life for God’s spies.  Fast forward and we find simple fisherman and unpopular tax collectors alike called by Jesus.  Almost all of the people that God called are much like us – normal, ordinary people.  Some were even outcasts and others were hated by their siblings.  Some served for just short periods and others served for years.  Some were even like Paul, who as Saul killed many Christians in his attempts to stamp out the new church.  The long and short of it is that God can and will continue to call any and all for service in the kingdom.

In addition to calling us, God also equips us.  Paul reminds us that in Christ we have been “enriched in every way” and that we “do not lack any spiritual gift”, that God has already given us what we need for the tasks at hand.  Paul then shares a promise: “He will keep you strong to the end”.  And lastly, Paul shares, “He has called you into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord”.  Pretty good company as we answer God’s call on our lives.

We are each called and equipped by God to go forth into the world with Jesus Christ.  May we faithfully answer the call this day.


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Thanks

Reading: Psalm 50: 1-8 & 22-23

God’s voice booms out in this passage.  It opens with, “The Mighty One, God, the Lord, speaks”.  One can hear the thunder in God’s voice.  Rightly so, God sounds like an angry parent.  God summons the people Israel to hear what needs to be said.  God reminds them of their covenant and that God is their judge.  In the verses not read from the Psalm, God lays out both why they should offer just thank offerings and also a list of the sins they are committing.  As we pick up in verse 22, God reminds ‘you who forget God’ the consequences and benefits of following God faithfully.

We live in a time where blood sacrifices of animals arr no longer made nor are they necessary.  Christ’s sacrifice on the cross covers all of our sins.  Yet God still desires our sacrifices.  In our passage God calls for thank offerings.  These are what God desires of us as well.  A thank offering expresses our gratitude to God for all we have been blessed with.  This can run the gamut from our tithe that we lay on the altar to the time we give to mentor one new to the faith.  It can be the time we give to teach a class and it can be the time we set aside each day to specifically and gratefully thank God for the specific blessings of each day.

This idea goes beyond simply saying ‘Thank You’ to God for the good things in our life.  Our thanksgiving also keeps us humble by recognizing God’s hand in all of our blessings.  It takes the focus off of us and how good we are.  We are also made more aware of God’s vast love, mercy, grace, … and this lessens the load that we feel we have to carry.  It relieves us of some of our fears and anxieties as we come to trust more in God’s provision, power, and presence in our lives.  We come to know God is in control.

Today may we take some time to thank God for the many ways we are blessed by and experience the divine hand at work in our lives.  May we express our gratitude through our selfless offering of our time, gifts, talents, resources, service, and witness.  And may we welcome the presence and peace of God into our lives.